Humble Beginnings
Written by Joe Cunningham - March 30, 2013
I rarely ever remember my dreams.  Most people don't.  But, this time I did.  

Maybe it wasn't a dream at all.  It felt more like a vision - like an experience that had not yet happened.  Something that might happen, or
should happen.

Whatever the case might be, it gave me the idea that is now Average Joe Ministries.

I had heard a sermon on the power of our personal testimony as a witness tool to the world.  I sat down and began to type.  

As the story developed, it brought back so many memories - some good, and some bad.  I wrote of growing up in a small town in Southern
California, and the adventures that I had with my friends.  There was hiking in the hills, and catching rattlesnakes.  There was countless
camping trips with my family, which usually centered around dune buggies and dirt bikes in Ocotilla Wells, CA.  There was horse back
riding and rodeos.  

I had been raised in a very devout Roman Catholic home.  I attended Catholic School, but somehow, I had missed knowing Christ.  I knew
how to be a good Catholic boy, but I didn't know Christ.

I told of the girls I knew in high school, and the trouble we got into.  How I met my wife Ka
thie.  How we fell in love, got married, and started
a family.

With all of the ups and downs, it was the story of my coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  

My dream was to build a website that I could use as a ministry tool for people to share their testimonies.  In my dream, there were dozens
of testimonies - each one unique.  Each one the story of how Christ has changed the life of that person.  There were teachings submitted
by others.  All giving glory to God.

Since part of my story is also Ka
thie's story, I ran the whole idea past her.  We read through my testimony and, together, we decided to
removed some of the parts that didn't relate directly to my coming to faith in Christ.  It was ten pages long... it needed to be edited.

Towards the end of my testimony, I had written a line that read, "If an average Joe like me can do it, anyone can do it..."  So, I decided to
call it "Average Joe Ministries".  I created a website, and through God's grace, secured the domain name "averagejoeministries.com"

It was my second attempt at building a website, so it was pretty low budget.  Being a mechanic by trade, I wanted it to have an industrial
look - lots of gray tones.  It wasn't very appealing to the eye, but that didn't really matter.  What mattered was getting it out there for all the
world to see.

All the world to see?  I was momentarily petrified by the thought of the entire world seeing my story.  I began to think of all of the "what-ifs".  
What if my boss sees this, or my coworkers?  What if some old high school girlfriends start contacting me?  This could be bad.  So I prayed.

If there is one thing that I have learned in my walk with Christ, it is this:  The closer you get to God, the more Satan steps up his mind
games.  Ironically, I have learned to use these mind games and temptations as a spiritual barometer to tell me that I am on the right path
with God.  Satan and his demons will always throw everything they have at you to derail you from your mission.  But always remember,
"Dear children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1John 4:4)

I published the website in April 2006.

I had no idea what to expect.  I braced myself for an onslaught of e-mails.  I was prepared to answer questions from non-believers about
the existence of God, and Christ, and heaven, and hell.  I checked the site counter three and four times a day for the first three weeks.  
And there was nothing.  No one had viewed the site at all.  Not one single view - not one e-mail.  

I began to have my doubts.  How would anyone ever find this site?  Was this just a ridiculous idea?  I flagged the home page with dozens of
key words and phrases.  I prayed over it constantly.  I trusted that God would do His will with this in His perfect timing.

I didn't give up.  I wrote a few studies and published them.  I began to search the keywords that I had flagged the page with, and found that
my site would come up somewhere around 850 hits back from number one.  No one would ever take the time to scroll back that far to find it.

I kept with it, but all the while felt that I wasn't quite ready yet.  I felt that God was still preparing me.

Six months had gone by with nothing.  Then one day, I checked the site counter and there was one!  Now I was really freaking out!  
Someone actually found it!  They had read my testimony and read the teaching on dealing with giants in our lives.  I checked the inbox,
waiting for an e-mail.  But, no e-mail would ever come.

I spoke to people that know the Internet.  They suggested that I link it to another website to help its popularity.  I linked it to our dog website
and instantly, the search count went from the 800's to the 200's.  But still no action.

I prayed constantly that God would use this for His glory.  I kept asking, "What do you want me to do with this thing?  Should I keep it up, or
should I just let it go?"

Nearly a year had gone by since I launched the website.  I was getting discouraged.  The annual renewal came up for the domain name
and I thought about letting it expire.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I received an e-mail.  It was from Pastor Khurram Shahzad of Flow of the Spirit Ministry in Faislabad,
Pakistan.  It was the most amazing, heartfelt letter of encouragement.  This Christian brother of mine that lives half a world away, not only
found the website, but took the time to write a letter encouraging me to stay the course and grow the ministry.  The Holy Spirit had this
planned from the beginning.  Pastor Khurram and I began corresponding with each other.  He sent me pictures of their Easter service.  He
has become an awesome brother in Christ.  I have an outstanding invitation to come and visit.  Maybe someday the Spirit will make that
happen.

I received an e-mail from another pastor in Pakistan, then one from a woman pastor in Afghanistan.  She explained that it is against the law
for a man to be the pastor of a Christian Church in Afghanistan - but it is OK for a woman to pastor a church.  It has been exciting to get to
know their cultures and how they are able to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

People began to find the website.  Nothing earth-shaking, but a couple of views a month.  I began to get one or two e-mails a month from
random people that stumbled across my testimony or one of the teachings.  It has been amazing to see how so many different people can
relate to the same story on so many different levels.  

I began to feel that what God had been preparing me for was right at hand.  So, in October of 2012, I completely revamped the website
with new graphics, and gave it a more professional look.  

I decided to send a personal invitation to everyone on my regular e-mail contact list.  I began by saying, "I might be your dad, or your son,
your husband, or your brother.  I might be your uncle or your nephew.  I might be a guy you work with, or a guy you worked with years
ago.  I could be a guy that bought something from you, or the guy that sold you something.  Whoever I might be to you, I sent you this link
to a website that I think you should take a look at..."

I sent it out to 106 people.  It was a pretty bold move, but I felt it was worth it.  It appears that most everyone checked it out.  A few wrote
me.  Most were positive.

I found that a few people that I had known from the past had given their lives to Christ.  It was cool to make those renewed connections.

The dream I had years ago was to provide a ministry outlet for people to share their stories, and share some teachings that touch the lives
of people with the love of Jesus Christ.  We are only getting started.  The Holy Spirit has plans for us.

Christ gave us the Great Commission to go out into all of the world with the Good News that transforms lives.  

Our testimonies are a great way to get started.  If the Holy Spirit places on your heart the desire to share your story, you now have a place
to do it.